Former MD Rep. Helen Delich Bentley dies at 92

Posted at 6:01 PM, Aug 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 13:54:14-04

Former Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley died just after 1:30 p.m. Saturday at her home in Timonium, a spokesperson for the family confirmed.

She had recently begun receiving hospice care at home.

One of WMAR/Channel 2's early local personalities, Helen Delich Bentley was a maritime editor for the Baltimore Sun who hosted The Port That Built A City, a weekly review presenting maritime, shipping and transportation-related news.

Bentley spent her life devoted to improving the city of Baltimore as well as the state of Maryland. In a time when women were not heavily involved in journalism or politics, Bentley broke glass ceilings in both areas.

She was known by both her fellow Republicans as well as Democrats as a force to be dealt with as she employed “a tenacious and gruff political style that produced results, especially when it came to her beloved Port of Baltimore.”

She was appointed as Chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission for a six-year term by President Nixon in 1969.

Bentley later ran several times and was finally elected as the U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District, serving several terms from 1985-1995.

In 1994, Congresswoman Bentley ran unsuccessfully for governor in her seventies.

Because of her passion and support of the Port of Baltimore for decades, it was renamed symbolically after her by Gov. Bob Ehrlich in 2006.

Throughout her constant involvement with the Port and in politics, she helped her husband run an antiques store on York Road in Timonium for many years.

Several Maryland officials released statements over the weekend expressing their respect for Rep. Bentley.

Gov. Larry Hogan said the following:

"The First Lady and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, one of Maryland's most dedicated and respected leaders. She was a friend and I had come to value her wise counsel over the years. During a recent visit with her, I was inspired to see that the same spirit and determination that defined both her public and personal life was still very much present right up to the end.

"Congresswoman Bentley worked with tenacity, energy, and passion on behalf of her constituents, making her a rare breed in politics and a role model to public servants across Maryland. She was a trailblazer for women in media and government, a longtime champion for manufacturing, maritime issues, and the Port of Baltimore which proudly bears her name as an everlasting tribute to her achievements.

"Our deepest sympathies are with her family and friends as the First Lady and I, along with countless Marylanders, mourn the loss of a true leader for our great state. The legacy of Congresswoman Bentley will not soon be forgotten. We owe her a debt of gratitude for a lifetime of service on behalf of the state of Maryland. She will be missed."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski: “Congresswoman Bentley was a champion for Maryland and the Godmother of the Port of Baltimore. She was a dedicated public servant, a trailblazer and above all a true American patriot. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones.

I first became aware of Helen Bentley in my family's living room, watching The Port that Built a City with my Dad. Helen's weekly TV show put a human face on the Port, showcasing how its industry and workforce was building Baltimore City and communities and creating jobs.

When she was elected to Congress, we became pals for the Port and working people. We both loved getting things done, pulled no punches and were known for using tough language. We were also known as the salt and pepper of the Maryland delegation.

The best ship is friendship that leads to bipartisanship. And then there were those regular 7 a.m. phone calls, with her saying in that trademark voice, 'Barb? It's Helen. You gotta get on this!' She was the legislator that launched a thousand ships.

It was a blessing to have been able to call her my friend. I will miss her. Maryland will miss her."

Rep. Elijah Cummings: “I send my thoughts and prayers to Helen's family and friends as they mourn her passing. 

I have known Helen Bentley for over 25 years.  Helen was more than a great congresswoman, she was my mentor and close friend.  Under her leadership, the port of Baltimore remained one of the best in the world, so when I became Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, she was the first person I turned to for guidance. She was a tremendous resource and selflessly assisted me in getting acclimated to the new role.

She served on the board of the Maritime Industries Academy High School with me for nearly a decade, where she consistently demonstrated her commitment to ensuring that inner-city students received a meaningful education.

I visited Helen several weeks ago and her last words to me were, 'Keep fighting for our children.'  I will miss my friend dearly. I will miss her inspirational words and her guidance.

Maryland and the nation have lost a true humanitarian."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: "When I think of the great leaders that have championed for Baltimore, one of the first people I think of is Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley. Her passion for Baltimore was evident in her non-partisan efforts to foster strong business ties to usher in growth and prosperity for the City. Stoic, yet compassionate, she was a strong voice and advocate for Baltimore working in the best interest of the City. She is a stateswoman who exemplified strength and uncommon fortitude when faced with the sometime difficult task of getting the job done. She will be terribly missed, but her legacy will continue as an example of what leadership and compassion can accomplish when it is grounded in public service and a commitment to excellence."

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn: “This is a tremendous loss for the Port of Baltimore and the State of Maryland.  I am so fortunate to have developed a friendship with Helen.  What she accomplished in her long life is nothing short of amazing.  Helen spent her life breaking glass ceilings.  Even in her later years, she never missed an opportunity to speak loudly for the Port.  Thank you Helen for everything you did and for all your work to help make the Port of Baltimore one of the busiest ports in the country.”

No service arrangements have been announced at this time. 

AP contributed to this report. 

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